Free Press Journal

The bee in Army’s bonnet

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An Indian Border Security Force (BSF) soldier keeps guard at the India-Pakistan border Chakri post, about 20km from Gurdaspur, on October 3, 2016. Pakistani and Indian troops on October 3 exchanged fresh fire across their de facto border in Kashmir, Islamabad said, following an overnight militant raid on an Indian army camp in which one trooper was killed. The two countries, who were separated at birth at the end of British colonial rule in 1947, have fought three full-blown wars in the last seven decades -- including two over Kashmir. / AFP PHOTO / NARINDER NANU

There is this great Indian rope trick known only to a select few in the Indian Army. Let me clarify at the outset that this is no ordinary rope as it has a life of its own. No incantations and commands are needed and it can coil around a ‘volunteer’ on its own, with the finesse of a slithering snake, pinning him down and binding him to any object, say, the bonnet of a jeep, very much like a mannequin or a scarecrow.

The jeep, too, instantly throttles to life in auto mode and starts ploughing through the territory that the men in fatigues wish to control — a modern-day Ashwamedha– enabling them to keep an entire population under military occupation, if they so desire. For how long should an entire population of a region be kept under the jackboot is another matter.

Of course, there are short uneasy periods of equilibrium when the jeep is in the garage but that should not bother us either. The important thing is that our ‘muscular nationalism’ is giving us excellent results and toddlers are no longer throwing pebbles at the warriors of this land.


Such has been the seductive lure of the great Indian rope trick that the instant the beast on four wheels hits the road, there is a mad scramble among the brave hearts in fatigues to accost the jeep and preside over the moth pinned to the bonnet. For them, it is the ultimate badge of honour. No wonder they are making a beeline for army bases, each with a rope of his own.

By the time the jeep has taken a round of the amphitheater, no less than half a dozen ‘sacrificial lambs’ are affixed to its bonnet, bumper, the side grill and even the rusty number plate. The rickety jeep can then be described in military parlance as ‘fully loaded.’
That the 15-year-old delinquents have have been bracketed with terror smitten adults is another matter. That one day they will hurl something more lethal than stones is also another matter. For the men in fatigues, these are mindless bombers of tomorrow who will one day go behind the enemy lines in their quest for what they perceive to be ‘shahadat’ or ‘martyrdom.’

Whether there are a hundred virgins waiting at the end of the rainbow is also another matter but there is surely a jeep at the end of the rope.

An average Kashmiri is equally ecstatic at the rope trick — anything to break the monotony of his dull drab existence. They too are bored to death with the shoot and scoot tactics of their ‘boys’; to add to the ennui, stones have replaced Stinger missiles which are in great shortage along with other essentials in Pakistan. For the delinquents too the dare of cocking a snook at the men in uniform has waned, even though they have graduated from pebbles to boulders. The teen hooligans, too, have hurled stones from every possible vantage point in their homeland, turning kindergarten schools into stone quarries, rooftops into boulder dumps and hospitals into brick kilns.

That the stones often emanate from the direction of a madrasa is another matter. That these misguided youth see their acts through the prism of ‘taking on the might of Indian Army’ and the elders justify their acts as an exercise in civil dissonance is also another matter.

There are some faint hearted citizens who squirm at the Army’s patriotic games. They feel by using human shields in the Valley, we have taken another step in a direction from which it is difficult to retreat. We have just crossed that threshold, they say, where human lives do not mater, be they of civilians or militants.

But all this is dismissed by detractors as hogwash and it has been suggested that even rioters, black marketeers and roadside Romeos should get the rope treatment. Sadly, they don’t. They are seldom caught and even if they are, they get to generally ride the jeep with pomp, often with a miniature flag aloft and a VIP Lal Batti — these rascals are never pinned to the bonnet.

The author is a former editor of The Free Press Journal